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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happiness is Bad?


Happiness proponents and positive psychology have been getting a slightly murky rap lately- in the press and on some talk shows. There are those who contend that so much emphasis on resilience and living positively on the part of clinicians, therapists and researchers gives people a false view of what is possible. They also contend that if we do not first examine our dark side - or - worse still, if we simply sweep our dark side under the rug, all manner of demons and goblins will appear through the fabric of society and the individual.

Much of the above is - in my opinion - true. A simplistic quest for happiness that does not involve approaching the darker sides of ones psyche with care and awareness, is one that is bound to fail to some degree, if not entirely. You can only keep up appearances for a while, if you don't bother trying to understand where your darkness lies.

I am a disciple of Jung and the neo-Jungians, and have, by the way, only recently received a copy of The Red Book (Jung's autobiographical self-exploration par excellence which he called his “confrontation with the unconscious"), and so I do believe that it is necessary to have such a confrontation if one truly wishes to find a path to inner peace. In other words, to glibly proclaim that by thinking positively one will find deep and lasting happiness, is, of course, a denial of the depth of the psyche and all that lies therein. Without an acquaintance and understanding of that part of us, peace will not come.

However, having said that, I fully support living positively no matter what your circumstances. I take courage from the example of lives such as Mandela, Frankl, Christopher Reeve and many others who demonstrated that living positively in the light of horrific personal circumstances made all the difference in their lives and the quality of their lives during those trying circumstances.

Living positively as a part of our daily routine means that on some level we choose to look at things, whatever they may be from the position of possibility rather than from one of desperation. This - believing in possibility - is in and of itself, already a measure of potential greater well-being (akin to happiness), than focusing on what is wrong. If we set our focus on the shadow and the darkness within, we may lose sight of what is possible. Therein lies, I believe the greatest strength and value of positive psychology: it has allowed us to see the merit of choosing where to focus our eyes. Followed by choosing where to focus our thoughts, followed therefore, by choosing where to focus our feelings.

This is not a subject to be bantered about blithely, but it is a subject where the positivists need some defending - even by one who strongly believes in the importance of examining the dark.

Some thoughts about happiness and enlightenment you may find encouraging:

Happiness: not minding what happens (Krishnamurti)
Happiness: accepting what is (Tolle)
Enlightenment: the quiet acceptance of what is (Dyer)




For more about happiness, focusing on what serves your inner well-being, and on reconnecting with your soul, have a look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self, available in paperback and e-Book for Kindle formats.

Click here to download the first chapter.

Product Description from Amazon

Ask anyone, whatever their circumstances, if their life is vibrant, fulfilling, harmonious and happy. An honest reply is likely to be 'no', because to answer a truthful 'yes' is no mean feat. Only to grow psychologically and emotionally is not enough. And only to grow spiritually is not enough either. All three dimensions need to be developed in order to realize your full potential. If you are willing to assume total responsibility for the self and to start what is an on-going journey, you will quickly begin to glimpse the first fruits of the ultimate goal: inner well-being, freedom, peace, harmony and joy. This book sets out the pathway to self-mastery and self-discovery and walking that pathway will be the most exciting adventure of your life.





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